Conscious Uncoupling: Minimizing the Effects on Children of Divorce while Maximizing Amicable Divorce Solutions

With celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin calling their recent separation and intended California divorce “conscious uncoupling” there has been a lot said in the press about the pros and cons of describing the process involved in getting divorced this way. But in actuality there is nothing new about divorcing couples wanting to avoid the hostility, stress, and exorbitant costs of trying to devise the best co-parenting arrangements and the appropriate amount of child support through the use by each parent of a divorce lawyer. Indeed, parents who truly want to minimize the negative effects on children of divorce on children have for decades “consciously uncoupled” through mediation, a collaborative and cooperative way to get divorced, rather than litigation with two separate adversarial divorce attorneys.

The effects of divorce on children are particularly minimized in divorce mediation when the mediator has expertise in both family law and psychology. With these dual credentials, a divorce mediator is well equipped to show divorcing parents how they can effectively communicate between themselves and with their children, offer them legal information as to both the father’s and mother’s rights, and otherwise foster an amicable divorce. A divorce mediator can also engage parents in thoughtful discussions about how to tell children about divorce, and provide them with literature and other resources to help them learn how to foster their children’s well-being.

Mediators who in addition to being a divorce lawyer are expert in psychology are also likely to minimize the effects on children of divorce by making sure that parents understand the “grief process” inherent in divorce: the non-linear emotional progression from denial, to anger, to bargaining, to depression, and over time to acceptance. These mediators are apt to explain that although virtually all divorcing parents and children of divorce alike will either before separation, during divorce, and/or after signing a divorce settlement agreement, go through these difficult emotional stages, minor children usually have far fewer coping skills than their parents – which means that parents who understand this grief process can greatly influence the duration and depth of their children’s grief process, helping to make it as short and less intense as possible.
So too will mediators who have dual credentials in family law and psychology include a step-by-step mechanism in the divorce settlement agreements they prepare. Because this mechanism provides a clear and concise methodology for resolving post-divorce disputes concerning children, it is yet another of the many positive effects of divorce mediation.

It is for all these reasons that conscious uncoupling through mediation is in the best interests of both divorcing parents and their children. Divorce mediation with a mediator who is expert in both family law and psychology will help families avoid the hostility, stress , and exorbitant costs when two adversarial divorce lawyers are involved, promote effective communication between parents and with children, provide pertinent legal and child-related information and literature, promote progress through the grief process inherent in separation and divorce, and construct a divorce settlement agreement that includes a step-by-step mechanism for quickly and consciously resolving any post-divorce disputes concerning children of divorce.

By: Oliver Ross, JD, PhD

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